Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Christina Jennings -- the History of Her Powell Flutes

Christina Jennings
We recently asked Powell artist Christina Jennings to tell us more about the Powell flutes she plays -- the options and specs, how she chose them, and a bit about their history.  Ms. Jennings shared the following about her two very special Powells...
Serial Number: 4682
Completion Date:
Sterling silver, soldered tone holes, .014" tubing, Cooper Scale, A-440, French cups, B foot with gizmo, in-line G, D# roller
Handmade Custom Metal Flute

Serial Number: 11367
Completion Date:
Sterling silver, soldered tone holes, .018" tubing, Modern Powell Scale, A-442, French cups, B foot with gizmo, offset G, split-E, C# trill, D# roller
Handmade Custom Metal Flute

I am the guardian of two special Powell flutes: number 4682 and 11367. Each flute came to me with a beautiful tone, an easy feel, and also an inherited legacy.

When I was thirteen, I came home from school to find that a complete stranger had bequeathed to me a 1976 Powell. The generosity of such a gift has continued to amaze me. This flute belonged to Evelyn Hansen Hurd, a resident of Hanover, NH, close to by hometown of Norwich, VT. Mrs. Hurd, a reference librarian at Baker Library at Dartmouth College, was also active in this thriving musical scene. She attended a performance of the Upper Valley Flute Choir in which I played the solo part to La Primavera, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Shortly after this performance, Mrs. Hurd, who had been battling cancer, was hospitalized and died. The memory I have of her funeral was of a cold spring day, and the beauty of this flute as it sang out the mournful Siciliana from the Bach E-Flat Major flute sonata.

With this spectacular instrument I played my Juilliard audition, performed aboard the QE2, debuted a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, and recorded my first CD Winter Spirits. This remarkable gift truly helped me find voice as a flutist.

Some fifteen years later, I became interested in exploring flutes with a deeper more expansive sound and with the addition of a C# trill key, off set G, and split E. I found such a flute in 2003 through Anne Pollack. The deeper sound, fluidity of the scale, and the power of the low register were among the aspects that impressed me. Anne explained that the flute belonged to a Boston doctor who purchased it shortly after his terminal diagnoses of cancer. This man was, Howard Blume, M.D, P.H.D chief of the Neurosurgery at Beth Israel/Deconess Hospital in Boston, on a clinical appointment with Harvard Medical School, and a dedicated physician and surgeon. Howard was also an accomplished flutist whose love of music began when he first picked up a flute as a young boy. During the last six weeks of his life, the flute became everything to Howard, and he dropped all other professional work and consumed himself in the research, purchase, and study of the flute. His widow Betty told me “I don't know how to say how important that flute was to him in the months of his illness.  It was an expression of his continuing hope -- his continuing insistence on making sense - of creating challenge for himself -- in the face of that terrible diagnosis.”

The spirits of Mrs. Hurd and Dr. Blume are alive in these wonderful instruments I am privileged to play.
*To learn more about Christina Jennings, click here to visit her website and here for her Powell Artist Profile Page.

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